Sarasota, Florida

Last evening, here in Sarasota, I spoke at the twelfth stop on my tour.  I was back in a protestant church, this time a really nice, modern church where communication was easy and relaxed.

Two interesting features about this stop:

Three former Redemptorist priests attended. It was good to have them there, and I had a great chat with them.  They were of the American provinces, and were generally about my own age.

The meeting was hosted and chair by one of the Roman Catholic Women bishops, Bridget Mary Meehan.  Bridget Mary, of course, is native Irish, though she has lived most of her life over here. It was really interesting to talk to her about how she sees her movement, and where it might go into the future.  There are now about two hundred women ordained priests under the umbrella of the Roman Catholic Women Priests movement.  There are some in Europe, but the main body of them are in the United States. They insist that, because the first ones were ordained on the Danube river by a Catholic bishop in good standing they are validly in the line of succession. Each one of these priests seem to gather a little community around , and meet weekly for prayer and Eucharist. They meet in homes, halls or, as in the case of Bridget Mary’s group, in the same hospitable protestant church where we were last night. Her community is an interesting mixture, with a few former priests and nuns and other people who seem to be very committed to the faith, but find the ordinary parish celebration does not meet their needs — some because of the extreme conservative positions adopted by their pastor, others because the quality of the celebration is lifeless and impersonal. They tell me that they find this community supportive both of their spiritual and personal lives.  This movement makes up part of the wider development of Intentional Eucharistic communities that I have written about earlier in this site.

The Vatican’s response is to excommunicate them. When asked by a local television station, in an interview, last night what I thought of that I said that I considered the whole notion of ‘excommunication’ to be a medieval concept that has no real meaning in the modern world, and that I would hope the Vatican would come up with a more appropriate response. Excommunication was the way the Church dealt with the reformers four hundred years ago, and we can see now what a disastrous response that was. These people are good, genuine believers, and they deserve to be treated with a bit more respect.